Powering up creativity – the scientific evidence

Creativity. Its the cornerstone not just of innovation, but of all good problem solving. And yet it can seem so elusive, so hard for us to switch from our usual analysis, judgement, decision making thought processes into a more lateral state where we make fresh connections. Maybe thats why we seem to get out best ideas in the shower, when our brains are just musing in neutral…

So New Scientist has this week decided to pull together what contributes to improved creativity – based on a multitude of studies that have been done, some of which to be fair could be candidates for Ig Nobel awards (ie the biggest waste of time scientific research), but which others provide a unique insight into what practical aspects contribute to creativity.

Here’s the quick summary, apologies to New Scientist for paraphrasing a great article and adding my own asides:

1. Embrace your inner grouch – its the complainers who think about how to change things, in any organisation – so harness it, no matter how discontent they seem.

2. Let your mind wander – an unfocussed brain has more to draw on to make fresh connections, so the more rested and exploratory y0ur brain is, the better.

3. Play the Piano – they’re not sure whether its the ambidextrous nature making both brain hemispheres work together, or something else at work, but musicians can be far more creative thinkers than your usual joe blogs. (So to those of you that hate the creative warm up with musical instruments that I use – ta da!)

4. Colour your world BLUE – remarkably, studies show that being surrounded by blue or working with blue objects makes us more creative than with red! Blue Lego, anyone?

5. Two’s creative company – advertising agencies have known this for years, but studies now show that social interactions are vital to creating better ideas. Even in science, hence even Einstein didn’t do it alone but relied on his debate (and arguments!) with Niels Bohr. Which I won’t bohr you with. ha ha.

6. Live abroad – apparently those of us that have lived or worked abroad, when we switch back into that mindset (eg recalling memories), we are more creative than people that haven’t (or people that aren’t remembering it actively). So daydream about your adventures abroad, and get planning the next one…

7. Be more playful – novelty,freshness and play all sit together and pave the way for better creativity. Some researchers even view it like a biological state, like sleep, which we can step into and out of. So make a time and a place for some play (though perhaps water fights in the office are a no-no, as I discovered very early in my career…)

8. Raise a glass – funnily enough there have been MANY studies into the effects of alcohol on creativity. Sadly, there’s no correlation – it doesn’t make you more creative, you just think you are. As with dancing, telling jokes, etc….

And on that note, bottoms up, to better creativity from fun, play, adventure, social company, complaining and daydreaming – surely all the things we like to do best?!! (Funny how doing VAT returns wasn’t on the list. Hmmmm)